Dawson’s Creek and Gay Male Representation in Media

I loved the US TV show Dawson’s Creek. It really was overly dramatic teenage tripe (read: that made me love the show even more), but 15 years ago, in the Season 3 finale, it showed primetime television’s first passionate kiss between 2 men. Even though it was a secondary plot arc in the series, this event had a huge impact on me, and solidified Dawson’s Creek as a seminal series of my adolescence. (Is there a pun there? Totally unintended.)

Between the ages of 15-18, the television series accompanied me through some emotionally turbulent, and even traumatic times. I had realised that I was attracted to men; I attended an all boys high school; I was closeted, having only come out to 3 people (1 of which was traumatic); I was marginalised for the perception of being gay. I don’t know if it was bullying, but it was continuous. Throw in the adolescent mood swings, hormones, and budding attraction to some classmates, and I got lonely teenage years.

I didn’t have any figures in actual life that I could identify with, so I turned to my other parent, TV. Even then, my beloved TV just delivered subtext or euphemism, and worst: sit-coms (Will & Grace). I loved Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Daria, and Angel, but where were the boys kissing boys?! I wanted to kiss a boy. I didn’t know how that “happened” or what it looked like. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my desires.

So when Kerr Smith’s character Jack came out on the show, I was instantly in love. I saw someone who was like me: I was less alone. He was confused, afraid, shameful, emotional, a bit fucked up. An ordinary kid, not an adult New Yorker or a drag queen in Miami. A kid, navigating the waters of desire and identify, like I was.

[I don’t usually bring up these memories from adolescence. Writing this, I am filled with a profound loneliness sitting in my chest. I had no one to talk to, and over the years I was deeply infatuated with a few of my classmates that were never aware of my feelings (I think).]

Jack’s character was the first step to normalising my new identity and what I was feeling at the time. The internet was in its infancy, so I couldn’t just search “gay” in the AOL search engine and find the very limited resources for LGBTQ+ youth. Jack showed me that there were other people in the world like me when I felt so isolated and wrong.

Even in today’s media, with all the progress of LGBTQ+ viability, in mainstream media gay male representation is still watered down or hesitant. A recent piece by Australia’s SBS young current affairs show The Feed Why aren’t more men kissing on TV? discussed the heteronormative approach of television, even of seemingly progressive shows like Modern Family and Will & Grace. In Australia, most of our television is home-grown or from the USA and UK. With same-sex marriage equality laws being passed in even more regions (Australia notably is not one of them) and polls showing growing support for marriage equality (70% in Australia according to this article in The Guardian), men kissing on mainstream television, especially in established character relationship is clearly unrepresented. Women kissing historically has had more representation on mainstream television, but there are problems with this situation too.

Thank goodness for the internet. I can, and young people too, have more access to diverse and less popular sappy television series to binge.

Thanks to samesame for this article that prompted this post as well.

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